As Seen On TV
Unless you're living in a cave, you've undoubtedly seen the infomercial for the TornadoFuelSaver on TV. This device (and several of its copycat imposters) purports to deliver better mileage, increased horsepower, savings on fuel costs, and an installation that requires no skill and takes less than 5 minutes. Sounds like quite a package of goods, right?
Being a natural-born skeptic is a good thing when you're a journalist, so I set out to see if the TornadoFuelSaver really does deliver on its claims. As part of my initial research, I spoke with my friend, Craig Van Wickle, who is also a Corvette guy and the owner of the local NAPA store, Van Wickle Auto Supply, in nearby Point Pleasant, New Jersey. He sells the TornadoFuelSaver (TFS) in his store, and he has sold dozens of them. He told me the device actually does work, and his customers have all reported positive results from using it. Some have gotten moderate gains in performance and mileage, while other have gotten really spectacular results, depending on the vehicle it is installed in. Several of his friends, who also own Corvettes, are using the TornadoFuelSaver too, and they all seem to be happy campers according to what they've told him.
Armed with this knowledge, I thought, "what the hey, I'll give one of these gizmos a try," so I went to the company's web site, www.tornadofuelsaver.com, to look up the model I'd need for my '98 C5. Bad news here-the device won't work on a C5 because its air-induction system is oval rather than round, which is a requisite of the TFS. That's too bad, indeed. However, if you have a C6 (which has round air induction), you're in luck, since there's a model (KI-90) that works with it.
I wasn't about to be deterred by this minor detail, however. I also have a '67 427 coupe, so that was the next model number to look up. Aha! The KC-50-C is the puppy I needed for my Bad Boy, so that's the one I ordered. Suggested list price on the TornadoFuelSaver is $69.97.
Now for the manufacturer's claims, starting with the installation. On the '67, which is normally aspirated, it was truly a no-brainer, consisting of removing the air cleaner's wing nut and lifting off the cleaner cover, dropping the TFS in place within the air filter (following the orientation on the label), and replacing the cover and wing nut. That's all there is to it.
On an injected engine (including C4s and C6s), you simply remove the air-inlet hose between the throttle body and the air-filter box, install the unit (making sure it fits snugly inside the hose), then replace the hose, and secure the clamp.
Their under-5-minute installation claim held water. But a large part of my skepticism was based on the fact that this device has no moving parts, so just how is it supposed to increase power and mileage?
The manufacturer explains the slots and grooves in the TFS create a vortex with the air coming into the intake system, and this turbulence produces a more finely-atomized air/fuel mixture in the combustion chamber, which, when exposed to the ignition, results in more complete and efficient burning of the fuel. This, ostensibly, produces more power from less fuel consumption. End result: less gas used, more miles per gallon, money saved at the pump.
It all sounds good, but does it work? Bottom line: yes, it does. I actually could feel a bit more pep in my off-the-line acceleration, and my average mileage increased from about 15 mpg to 18 mpg-that's a 20-percent mileage increase. At that rate, the TornadoFuelSaver will have amortized itself in less than seven tankfuls; after that, it's all gravy!
There are several competitive products on the market that are pretty much copies of the original, but since I haven't tried them, I can't say whether they work or not. But the TornadoFuelSaver definitely lives up to its claims, so if you want to improve your mileage this is a good way to do it.
Snake Oil, Blue Smoke, And Mirrors Department
There are lots of other products that all claim to improve power, mileage, and fuel economy, but I tend to view them with suspicion. These include devices such as bolt-on gasoline vaporizers, "super turbulator" modules, engine ionizers, fuel pills, and combustion-increasing enzymes. just do a quickie search of "fuel saving devices" on the Internet using Ask.com, Google, or any other search engine, and you'll find a plethora of products that all claim to increase your mileage, deliver more power, and save you money. Do these items work? to be honest, I don't know. But because of my innate skepticism and reluctance to do any kind of invasive stuff to my Corvettes, I'll never know firsthand. You won't see me installing any kind of additional plumbing to my engine, nor dropping pills and tablets into my gas tank; I just don't like these approaches and I'm the one who has to foot the repair bill if something goes awry with these gizmos. That's why I always advise on the side of caution rather than bravado. If you're more adventurous than me, by all means go for it. But give it a little thought before using any of these products and ask yourself some questions, such as: What's this stuff going to do to my fuel system? is this going to do anything permanent to my engine? what if this really screws up my Vette? if your vehicle is still under warranty, how will adding/ installing/using these things effect it?
Personally, these invasive products are not for me, and I don't recommend them for you either. Play it safe by modifying your driving habits, using some common sense, keeping your Corvette properly tuned, and your tires properly inflated. These are rock-solid ways of improving your mileage without putting yourself or your vehicle at risk. Now, go gas up and go for a spin, but as I said earlier, try to take it a little easier on the loud pedal.